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Study: Sites to bring in billions in holiday donations

Online donations in the United States could surpass $4 billion over the holidays, marketing firm Convio predicts. More than 63 percent of those surveyed plan to give via the Internet.

Despite the recession, people are expected to be in a charitable mood this holiday season, as they shop online.

In the United States, cumulative online donations to charities could hit more than $4 billion during the holidays, according to a survey released Tuesday by marketing firm Convio. More than than 63 percent of those surveyed said they plan to donate money via the the Internet over the holiday season (November 1 through December 31, 2009), up from 51 percent in 2008.

Convio's "North American Technographics Omnibus Online Survey" for the fourth quarter of 2009 found that despite tough financial times, almost 6 out of 10 people questioned plan to give the same amount of money or more compared with last year, while only 23 percent plan to give less.

Convio, which helps nonprofit organizations with marketing and fund-raising, stressed the importance of an online presence for charities. The survey discovered that charity Web sites have the biggest influence on a consumer's decision of whether to donate (44 percent), followed by word of mouth (40 percent).

About 56 percent of those surveyed believe that nonprofits have made it easier to donate online, while 46 percent think that charity Web sites make it easy to find the information they need in order to decide whether to give. And 39 percent said they made an online donation after visiting a nonprofit's Web site.

"Despite the difficult economy, American consumers will be going online in record numbers to support charitable causes in the final four weeks of the year," Convio CEO Gene Austin said in a statement. "As we enter the critical holiday giving season, charities that have focused on their online fund-raising and marketing programs stand to benefit from the changing demographics and behaviors of today's consumer. The Internet provides a cost-effective and efficient channel to engage consumers and allow a charity's most ardent supporters to help tell the story."

To ask questions about online support for nonprofits and compile survey results for the study, conducted from October to November 2009, Convio commissioned Forrester's Technographics. Convio's projections for U.S. online spending during the holiday season are based on the survey results, data from its own clients, and other industry studies.